52 Ancestors: John Hadden (1866-1924)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

This week the spotlight is on John Hadden, my 2X great grandfather. He is also the first of three John Hadden’s in my direct Hadden lineage (my grandfather was John Gaull Hadden and my son is John Graham Hadden). The John Hadden who is my 2X great grandfather was also the first significant research ‘brickwall’ obstacle that I had to break through when I began researching my ancestors.

When I began my ancestral hunt just over 30 years ago, I intuitively started by asking my oldest then-living relatives about our family history. I was told that my great grandfather, Alexander Shand Hadden had brought his family, which included my grandfather, to Canada in order to join his mother Helen Shand with her homestead lands in Saskatchewan. Helen, according to the family story, had re-married in Scotland to man named Gammie and together with their sons, they had immigrated to Saskatchewan in 1907 to homestead. Alexander, being older than his half-siblings, had decided to remain in Scotland where he worked as an engineer on a ship in the merchant marine.

I asked about Alexander’s father and Helen’s first husband – what was his name and what happened to him? The answer was that no one seemed to know the answers to these questions although it was speculated that he had died in a quarry accident leaving Helen a widow with a young son.

Some of the answers to my questions came later when the then General Register Office of Scotland (since merged with National Archives of Scotland to form the National Records of Scotland) mailed a copy of Alexander Shand Hadden’s birth registration to me. Alexander’s father was John Hadden, an assistant shopkeeper and general merchant in Bainshole, Insch, Aberdeenshire. Helen Shand, as expected, was listed as the mother. What was not expected was that John Hadden and Helen Shand never did marry. 

In his first annual report on births, deaths, and marriages, the Register General for Scotland (report published in Edinburgh in 1861) provided the analysis that, for the year 1855, the first year of civil registration in Scotland, 7.8% of all births in Scotland were “illegitimate.” In the north-east of Scotland, which included Aberdeenshire, the rate was 13%, and in subsequent years the rate was greater still.

All this goes to say that the birth of my great grandfather ‘out-of-wedlock’ in the Aberdeenshire of 1866 was not unusual in any spectacular way. In fact, it is likely that John and Helen did not marry because of their ages at the time of Alexander’s birth. Helen was only 18-years old and John was just 17-years old. Following the traditional Scottish naming pattern, their baby was named after the father’s (that is, John’s) father. Helen kept and raised baby Alexander. John moved on but not necessarily to a free and easy life.

John Hadden was born on 1 Jan 1866, the sixth child of ten known children born to Alexander Bean Hadden and his first wife Jane Mathieson. His father worked primarily on local farms as a labourer and ploughman before finding his calling as a general merchant. Eventually, Alexander would become a Master Grocer and it was into this occupation that he directed his three sons.

The census records for Scotland tell us that by 1891, John Hadden had moved out on his own and was working as a grocer’s assistant in Ayr. In 1895, John married Helen Duff. Helen had been married before and was widowed in 1888 when her husband of only three years, Patrick Keating died of tuberculosis. 

At the time of his wedding to Helen, John was living in Glasgow and working as a grocer’s assistant. It is known that Helen had had a son with an unnamed father when she was 19-years old, years before her marriage to Patrick Keating. After Patrick died, Helen returned to her father’s home in Kinfauns, Perthshire where she lived with her father and her then teenage son. I have found no record that suggests that Helen’s son, John Duff ever lived with her and John Hadden.

It doesn’t appear that the marriage was filled with wedded bliss for either Helen or John. Just six years after the wedding, they can be found living about one half mile apart in the town of Perth, Perthshire.

The map, snipped from Google Maps, shows the distance from John Hadden’s residence at Point A to his wife Helen (Duff) Hadden’s residence at Point B in the town of Perth.

John was listed in the 1901 Census of Scotland as a boarder in the Dingwall family household at 7 North William Street whereas Helen was residing again with her father at 17 James Street. While Helen was recorded as being married, John was recorded as being single, something that may be simply explained as an error on the part of the individual who provided the information to the enumerator.

There is no record that I have found indicating that John and Helen ever lived together again. I was unable to find either of them in the 1911 Census of Scotland. John died of pneumonia in Ruchill Hospital in Glasgow on 5 Nov 1924. When he died his occupation was listed as ‘Spirits Salesman.’

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